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MAIN OU’S (article first published : 2007-06-28)

Currently appearing in Main Ou’s at Catalina Theatre, Hamish Kyd and Gail Snyman are two veteran Durban theatre personalities who have either appeared in or been associated with numerous productions over the years. Outspoken and passionate about their craft, these community activists have a history of staging work focusing on issues and identity with specific reference to their own community.

The Main Ou’s comprises two one-act plays: Gail Snyman’s With Tears in my Navy Blue Eyes and Hamish Kyd’s Knowing You, Knowing Me. Lest you think you’re about to see an angst-driven politically-biased production, have no fear as the focus is strongly on comedy. Obviously appreciated to the full by those who understand the finer points of the humour, Main Ou’s is a fascinating exploration into the feisty and forthright coloured community of Durban.

Gail’s play is based on her own experiences in Wentworth and Merebank and at times she plays herself and her mother. The play opens as Gail awaits the movers to take her belongings away from the home she has shared with her now-estranged husband. After 32 years, she has finally uttered the words “That’s it! I have had enough!” In the midst of packing and preparing for a new life, she wanders down memory lane as her thoughts dwell in the past.

Gail paints a clear and evocative picture of the characters of her childhood. She presents them with sincerity and affection along with a wry sense of humour, even when dealing with the first indications of forced removal when the bulldozers moved in to demolish their homes. With Tears in my Navy Blue Eyes has toured UK, Canada and Australia. In 1997, Snyman won a Mayor’s Award for tourism for her novel tourism concept – The Coloured Experience - providing visitors with an opportunity to visit areas not previously included in their itineraries. I would suggest that this would be a very interesting venture to revisit.

Written and performed by Hamish Kyd, Knowing You, Knowing Me starts off with Lenny Stalk (Hamish) kneeling in a stark spotlight. He is communicating with his god – well, he’s actually asking if he could speak to his long-dead wife. There’s a problem. Their son, Otis, who Lenny has brought up single-handedly has turned out to be gay. Despite Lenny’s frantic attempts to “un-gay” him, Otis has gone his chosen route. The problem lies in whether or not Lenny should go to the fashion design awards ceremony to support Otis. He even asks if God could spare the Angel Gabriel to have a word with his son!

In this poignant comedy of a practical welder father trying to make sense of his fashionably creative son, Hamish’s distinctive sense of humour and empathy for the human spirit is very much to the fore. During the story, we discover that Lenny himself has not exactly followed a conservative path in matters of the heart!

In both productions, the audience responded with delight as memories were triggered – Springbok Radio, jockey Charlie Barends, the Moon Hotel, Bolton Hall, beehives and the Twist, to name a few. I believe that these two one-act plays – perhaps scaled down into a lecture period – would be invaluable as an educational touring programme. Pieter-Dirk Uys has taught us that the best way to educate is through entertainment. Main Ou’s certainly fits the bill perfectly.

Main Ou’s runs until July 8 at Catalina Theatre from Tuesday to Saturday at 20h00 (Sunday at 18h00). Tickets R60 (R30 pensioners and students). Buy one get one free promotions every Sunday. For more information or to book, contact the Catalina Theatre on 031 305 6889. – Caroline Smart




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